One of our small Hurunui congregations at Amberley is especially enthusiastic and devout in their singing of the Mass every Sunday morning at 8am. Each Sunday of Lent following a time of silent prayer in thanksgiving after communion, we have sung the Gregorian chant Ave Verum.
While many Catholics are familiar with the Angelus prayer, fewer know the Easter Anthem Regina Caeli. This prayer replaces the Angelus for the Easter Season, from Easter Sunday until Pentecost.
Yesterday morning at the Amberley Easter Day Mass, without practice or warning, I invited the 40 people present to join in singing of the Regina Caeli. The response of the parishioners was inspiring. It was especially interesting to note the number who remember this ancient hymn from their school days, although they have not sung it for more than half a century. Younger parishioners were moved to hear something so beautiful, and to know that this hymn, foreign to them, was for almost 1000 years, sung by Catholics of all ages throughout the Easter season.
Sadly, in the past few decades we have dumbed-down not only our teaching of the beauty and depth of Catholic faith, but we have often done the same with the beauty of the Churches musical tradition. As the people of Amberley have reminded me by their response, healthy humans hunger for such truth and beauty.
Twelve hours after the Hurunui Easter Sunday morning Masses, I watched online Pope Francis celebrated Easter morning Mass in St. Peter’s square. Following the blessing at the end of this Mass, Pope Francis too, led his congregation (of 150.000 people) in the Regina Caeli.
While it can be recited in English, the Regina Caeli is one of the few remaining prayers that is still commonly sung around the world in Latin. It is simple to learn. You can pick it up easily with the help of this clip: